Anonymous Google docs titled “TV Actors SALARY” and “TV WRITERS SALARY” began circulating this week
You can’t know what you don’t know.
Anonymous Google docs titled “TV Actors SALARY” and “TV WRITERS SALARY” began circulating this week, asking industry workers to provide variables including their salary, level or title, gender, studio and network, show length, union status and whether they were a person of color. “Please add your salaries so that people can know what other folks are being paid,” tweeted gender equity advocate Melissa Silverstein, founder of Women and Hollywood.
Several did: A unionized male, non-POC producer at Paramount, for example, said he made $17,500 an episode on an hourlong scripted show; a unionized female POC staff writer on a scripted hourlong Amazon show said she made $5,200 a week. A male POC series regular who appeared in 13 out of 13 episodes of an hourlong CBS show said he made $27,000.
The intel gathering, however unverified, came amid an ongoing dialogue on pay parity in Hollywood and beyond. (Women on average still make 20% less than men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and an Ellevest report this month found 83% of women believed there was a gender wage gap.) And as gender-equality movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up rage on, calls for pay transparency have loudened: A viral December tweet from writer and author Mary H. K. Choi, for instance, urged men to disclose their salaries to the women in their lives.
“Dudes: If you consider yourself a feminist and an ally and if your heart goes out to all the women who have been abused in the workplace but don’t know what to do, be a pal and tell three women you work closely with how much you make,” Choi wrote. “because that’s the thing right? it’s not like we DON’T KNOW. it’s that we KNOW we’re getting f–ked but not always by how much. THAT is crazy-making. Tell a friend.”
TechGirls Canada founder Saadia Muzaffar, stymied by a lack of mobility at a job early in her career, disclosed her salary out of frustration to a male colleague. “He was just stunned — I will never forget his face,” the Toronto resident, now 40, told Moneyish. “He made me repeat the number … and then he told me that there were two other people — one less experienced, one with the same experience — who were both getting paid 40% more than me.” She raised the discrepancy with her company, which she declined to name, but quit after it failed to address her concerns.
“I’m like, ‘How do you know?’” Muzaffar recalled asking her friend. “He’s like, ‘Men talk about this all the time.’” This, she speculates, is because men are “discouraged less, threatened less, with breaking rules” at work. “Women are threatened so much on so many levels to not f–k up,” she said. “The penalty for a woman to be assertive and focused on something earns her the title of being a b—h instantaneously.”
Muzaffar, about two and a half years ago, also challenged women in a Lean In Power Circle she led to share their salaries with one another. “It was the most uncomfortable and the most rewarding thing that we’d done together,” she said. “We were able to help each other negotiate better ways of presenting our cases for promotions,” flexibility, titles and other perks.
In the present climate, she added, women can take things a step further and push for organizational change — raising questions about pay transparency as “a systems thing rather than just a personal thing.” “It’s exciting for me to see people coming together and learning how to organize around issues rather than personalities … or specific companies,” Muzaffar said. “So if you look at this Hollywood thing that’s going on, this is not against any one organization — they’re actually saying it’s the industry, the sector, which is so powerful.”
Of course, you should be sensitive and tread carefully in disclosing or asking about salary. “People have a lot of judgments and personal value tied to a salary or rate, and I think that’s something that needs to be delivered with context and conversation,” career coach Maggie Mistal said, recommending disclosure mostly with people you trust or with employees departing the company. Check your contract and/or company policy to learn the potential repercussions — e.g. legal trouble or job loss — of sharing your pay info. “The information does need to get out there,” Mistal said, “but it needs to get out there safely, in a way that protects relationships.”
Pivot career coach and Bates College psychology lecturer Rebecca Fraser-Thill recommends “context and self-disclosure, in that order” when inquiring about a colleague’s salary. “I would never ask for a disclosure from someone else without disclosing first myself, ever,” she said. And if you do discover a wage gap, she added, keep in mind possible subjective factors that could help determine your salary — among them your performance, demand for your work, the degree to which you bring positive attention to your company and the extent to which you mentor and innovate.
“However,” she added, “those intangible subjective factors are (also) exactly what fuels the gender pay gap — because then employers, companies, can step back and say, ‘Well, you can’t see everything that’s behind why we’re giving men this much money and women this much money.’”
Overall, Fraser-Thill said, “knowledge is power.” “Without the knowledge of the actual gap that exists, a person is unlikely to take any action to rectify that,” she said. “You’re taking a shot in the dark, and you may be undercutting yourself. And, based on research, it’s more likely that females are doing (that) than men are.”
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